Chartis helps AIG hide in plain sight

The viable bit of warm and snuggly insurance company AIG has been spun-off and dubbed “Chartis”. A bad name? Well, yes. But that is just what they needed. Sometimes a terrible name is the perfect name. In today’s Insurance Journal, a so-called naming expert spouts off:

According to AIG, Chartis derives from the Greek word for map, which the company said underscores the company’s 90-year history as a global insurance pioneer.

While AIG is apparently not alone in liking the name, is Chartis a name to remember?

Perhaps not, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

One naming expert says the new corporate moniker is neither memorable nor snappy — and in that regard the name Chartis is perfect for what AIG wants to do, which is to distance itself from its old company and not draw a lot of attention to itself while doing so.

“It’s the kind of name that’s in one ear and out the other,” said Steven Manning, managing director for Igor, a well-known international naming and branding agency based in San Francisco. “It blends into the woodwork, which is just what the assignment was.”

Even the logo, a compass, is predictable, Manning noted.

Manning likened the move to Enron’s adopting Prisma Energy and Phillip Morris choosing Altria.

“It’s about breaking the association with AIG, like going into witness protection,” he said.

Chartis Insurance is using www.chartisinsurance.com for its Web site. Chartis Group uses chartis.com and chartisgroup.com.

Chartis Insurance, headquartered in New York, of course, has quite a head start on other companies picking a name. It includes the profitable AIG/AIU Commercial Insurance, Foreign General Insurance and Private Client Group operations. It had a combined statutory surplus of $32.1 billion worldwide at year-end 2008 and more than 40 million clients around the globe.

AIG/AIU hopes that the financially strong Chartis will be recognized for its success apart from the AIG name, which has been tainted by actions out of its London financial products unit that eventually resulted in a U.S. federal government bailout. The P/C units now being branded as Chartis did not get into trouble and did not require bailout funds.

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